Long time cannabis users often speak of their experiences with the entourage effect. The existence of the entourage effect has not been scientifically proven to date. However, the evidence we do have certainly leans in its favor. The more science learns about cannabis and other medicinal botanicals, the more it appears as though the entourage effect is real.
If you don’t know what the entourage effect is, no worries. Here is a simple explanation: the entourage effect is the combined effect of all a plant’s compounds on the human body, as compared to the effects of individual compounds in isolation.
Deriving Medicines from Plants
Western medicine relies heavily on pharmaceuticals. Believe it or not, many of the most common medicines we utilize in this country are derived from plants. Cannabis is the perfect example. Cannabis itself is not a medicine. It is a plant with numerous varieties, including marijuana and hemp.
Salt Lake City’s Beehive Farmacy explains that, when a patient purchases a medical cannabis product from them, they may or may not purchase actual plant material. Some patients purchase vape cartridges. The active component that qualifies a vape cartridge as medicinal is some sort of cannabinoid, usually THC.
In the simplest possible terms, that patient is using THC as a medicine. They are not using the whole plant. But even if they purchased cannabis flower from Beehive Farmacy, it is the THC they are after.
Another consumer might purchase a CBD product from the health and wellness center down the street. CBD is yet another cannabinoid found in cannabis. It is used medicinally as well as for promoting overall wellbeing. Either way, the customer is not after the entire plant, they only want the CBD.
Hundreds of Cannabinoids
It turns out that cannabis offers hundreds of cannabinoids with a variety of properties. There are also terpenes in play. Terpenes are what give botanicals their unique odors. They might also have medicinal benefits as well. Conventional wisdom says that you isolate cannabinoids and terpenes and investigate their medical benefits separately. Yet those who believe in the entourage effect say the compounds should be studied in different combinations.
The entourage effect recognizes that certain compounds within a botanical offer medical and general health benefits. But it also recognizes that certain compounds can be more beneficial when offered in combination with others. This is exactly what cannabis users mean when they talk about experiencing the entourage effect.
Layering Medical Cannabis
Medical cannabis processors are just now beginning to take a serious look at the entourage effect. While they try to figure it out, they continue to produce medications emphasizing just one or two cannabinoids and maybe a terpene or two. That leaves patients to experiment with the entourage effect by utilizing a practice known as layering.
Layering is the practice of using different types of cannabis products, either simultaneously or in succession, in order to enjoy their combined benefits. Plenty of experienced cannabis users swear by the practice. They say layering triggers the entourage effect and makes their medicines more effective together than they are separately.
Even though the entourage effect has not yet been scientifically proven, it has a lot of support in the medical cannabis community. Meanwhile, research into its viability is ongoing.
There may come a day when the effect is fully understood and documented. That would allow medical providers and pharmacists to maximize the medical benefits of cannabis by prescribing medications that are specifically designed to offer the entourage effect. Until that day, patients are left to do it themselves through layering.